WILLCOX, AZ (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) - "Many of our favorite foods are harvested in the fall, and although you can only pick them for several months, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor all year long!" said Mandy Kirkendall, owner of Apple Annie's Produce and Pumpkins.
"Here at Apple Annie's Produce and Pumpkins, we have all kinds of crops. We start earlier in the season with our sweet corn, summer squash, tomatoes, eggplants, pretty much any veggie. You name it, we've got it. Now we're in October, we have our pumpkins. We don't just have jack-o-lantern pumpkins. We have the fairytale, the cinderella type pumpkins, different colors, whites, pinks, greens — gorgeous pumpkins of all shapes and sizes," added Kirkendall.
"Apple Annie's is located in Willcox. Willcox is in southeastern Arizona right off Interstate 10, so it's really easy to get to from almost anywhere. You just jump on I-10 and go east from almost anywhere in Arizona. We are about three hours from the Valley, and about an hour and a half from Tucson," said Kirkendall.
We have Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Rum Beauties, Galas, Guji, Pink Lady, and they all come off at different times during our season. We are open July through October, and you can go out and pick your own apples. You just pay for what you pick. We have buckets. We provide buckets for you to pick into and bags to transport your fruit home in. And we also, on the weekends, offer hayrides out to the apple orchards to pick the fruit," said Kirkendall.
Kirkendall and her family own and operate Apple Annie's. They moved from the Valley to Willcox in the 1970s, hoping to cash in on the booming apple picking industry. But, by the late 80s, that business was at the bottom of the barrel.
"So, they said, 'What are we going to do with all these trees?' So we opened it up to the public, placed a little ad in the Willcox paper, and people started coming out to pick. So from there, we started advertising a little bit in Tucson, and it's grown from there. We started off in a carport. We baked pies out of our kitchen, our apple bread was developed, we made our own recipe for that, and that was all developed in my mom's kitchen," said Kirkendall.
Now, there are acres and acres of apples, produce, and fun. And besides the perfect pumpkin, you can even pick sunflowers.
"Where else can you do that in Arizona? So, people come out to Willcox or southern Arizona expecting the wild, wild west, you know, the tombstone-type thing, and they get out here and see all this lush greenness. It's what makes it a family tradition, the great escape from the city. It's cooler here. It's about 10 degrees cooler than Tucson, and 15 degrees cooler than Phoenix during the day, and our nights cool off a lot," said Kirkendall.
And don't forget to pick up some of that delicious apple bread, along with other goodies at their country store, which is open all year.
"We have hundreds of jars, of jarred goods on our shelves from apple butter to preserves and pickled items and salsas, and our fudge counter is very popular. We make all of our own fudge," said Kirkendall.
Back at the orchards, with family activities like hayrides, corn bins and a corn maze, it's easy to get lost in the excitement of the fall harvest.
"All of the work that we've done all year long, the sleepless nights and working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, seeing the people have fun, getting into their own things, hearing kids tell parents, 'This is way more fun than Disneyland' makes it all worth it!" said Kirkendall.